At 1 pm sharp I posted up at my favorite table in the cafeteria, second back from the main thoroughfare facing toward the elevators. From that perch I can indulge my nosiness and have juuust enough distance not to be eyeballed or hovered over by every passerby. While dining on an overpriced turkey sandwich from Whole Foods, my partners, La and Nicole and I got into a discussion about chicken boxes. What is a chicken box you may ask? It is a fried delicacy that is legend in Baltimore. It is also cheap. This box is comprised of fried hard chicken wings (2 for me) and french fries tucked in a box if you’re being literal, or styrofoam if you’re not. It can be found in a hood near you. Typically there’s Plexiglas involved, so you gotta shout your order through the mouth level circle of holes punched into the glass, Can I get a chicken box? Salt, pepper, ketchup! …and a half n half! I always decline ketchup because whoever’s serving up the grub is always heavy handed, to the point that ketchup covers the wings. I’m a salt and pepper girl, hold the ketchup.
While La and I wax poetic about our various chicken box experiences, Nicole twists up her face, chicken box, she says with disgust, ugggghhhh! We look at her like she just shook up a can of soda and opened it on us. What’s wrong with you, I ask, why do you hate chicken boxes? I mean its chicken and fries, what’s not to like?
I know, with a good half n half too, mmmmm, says La.
It’s the word, chicken box, it makes me think about a box made of chicken, retorts Nicole.
This comment is met with a round of laughter and some harassment at her expense. We taunt her Yankee by way of Rhode Island snobbery, especially her inability to make peace with our Baltimore vernacular.
We also ask her if she even knows what half n half is; her only response is to turn up her nose. For those not in the know, a half n half is a wonderful tooth disintegrating sweet drink that is a mix of lemonade and sweet tea. Done well, it can be a magical thing. The suburban term for this drink would be the Arnold Palmer, named after the golf legend. None of this moves her though she seems more open to the half n half.
Just as La and I are pinpointing the best places to get a stellar half n half a new character enters the scene, Los. He saunters over to the fridge grabs his lunch, and then regards us as he preps his food at the counter. As usual, he just shakes his head the whole time, he already knows the routine and expects the harassment but today I decide to do things a little differently. Instead of turning on Los, Nicole becomes the target. I reveal her disdain for the chicken box. What, exclaims Los, you can’t be serious! She tries to look at him defiantly but he’s having none of it. Come on, you’ve been in Baltimore, for what…Then he stops and just shakes his head again, that’s what I thought, if a number doesn’t come to mind, it’s been long enough. Nicole looks fake-hurt but quickly recovers standing firm in her anti-chicken box sentiment. We’re gonna work on that, said Los.
We all cackled and somehow the conversation wended its way to Tupac and Biggie. In fact I think I’m the one that took us there. I can’t be sure how I made the transition from chicken box to Tupac and Biggie but I did. Some random stream of consciousness meandered into my brain diverting my path, and bam! I’m telling Los and Nicole how irritated I still am that no one has caught their murderers and that I know there’s some kind of conspiracy blah blah blah… Any hip hop head in the 30 and up club has had this conversation before. While I’m rhapsodizing about the whole thing Los just looks like wow, pointing to me he says, you need a hug, and then turning to Nicole, and you need a chicken box.